The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is moving forward with its plan to allow 18-20 year olds to drive commercial trucks across state lines. After a year of waiting, FMCSA has proposed a pilot program and is asking for feedback from the public.
Large carrier groups like the American Trucking Association (ATA) have been trying to get the interstate trucking age lowered to 18 for years. In the past few years, they’ve taken massive strides toward making that a reality.
An 18+ CDL driver pilot is already underway for military veterans. When it proved difficult to get enough interested people who actually qualified for the program, ATA pushed for the program to be opened up to non-veterans as well. FMCSA complied and back in May of 2019, asked the public for input on what a pilot program for under-21 truck drivers might look like. Over 1,000 comments were submitted.
A year later, we have what the FMCSA has come up with. The proposed program would allow 18, 19, and 20-year-olds to operate CMVs across state lines. Drivers can qualify in either one of two ways:
1) Take part in a 120-hour probationary period and a subsequent 280-hour ‘apprenticeship’ period established by a carrier.
2) Have at least 1 year of driving intrastate CDL driving experience and at least 25,000 miles under their belt.
All drivers in the pilot program would also be limited by certain other restrictions. They include being barred from hazmat, special configurations (doubles, triples), and moving people. They also will be required to drive trucks that have active braking collision mitigation systems, forward-facing cameras, and a speed limited set to no higher than 65 mph.
“This is a significant step toward improving safety on our nation’s roads, setting a standard for these drivers that is well beyond what 49 states currently require,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “This is an amazing block of talent with unlimited potential. If our freedom can be defended from tyranny around the world by our men in women in uniform, many well below the age of 21, then it’s quite clear that we can train that same group how to safely and responsibly cross state lines in a commercial vehicle.”